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Not receiving it – receiving Him

Enquirers into Christianity often have difficulty with the concept of appropriating grace.  And given how we often present it, that's understandable.  Often we tell the enquirer simply to receive grace as a free gift. They, naturally, wonder what on earth that looks like. So we reply with greater vigour 'Just receive the free forgiveness and trust that you have been forgiven.'  When that draws a blank we revert to a series of cliches, each more abstract than the last - "The door has been opened, walk through the door... You've got the cheque marked 'forgiveness' - cash the cheque." 

But this is not the way the Bible presents it. In John 3:16 - the gift we are to receive is Jesus. Grace is not basically a concept or property.  He is a Person. Doesn't this (literally) put flesh and bones on the concept of receiving grace as a free gift. We're really asking the non-Christian to receive Jesus - the gift of His Father.

Rev 3:20 - There's not a 'free gift' standing at the door, waiting to be unwrapped.  There's not a gift certificate to be opened saying "IOU 1 eternal life". There is Jesus standing at the door.  And when you let Him in He doesn't just hover in your lobby assuring you of your forgiven status, He eats with you in intimate fellowship. THAT is what saving faith looks like. That is how a person becomes a Christian - not by assenting to a concept of forgiveness or vicarious atonement but by receiving the Person in Whom forgiveness, atonement and life is offered.

The same point is made in Colossians 1:13, 14. It is the Son in Whom redemption is offered - which is the forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness is redemption - the transference of a person (who is still a sinner!) from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of Christ. This deliverance is offered IN Jesus. We must be introducing people to the person of Jesus not the concept of change (or even of redemption or deliverance). We don't believe in redemption per se - we believe in the Redeemer.

Three implications:

First, in the Lord's Supper we ought to find some way of taking 'This is my body' seriously.  Transubstantiation is not the answer but neither is memorialism - we don't simply receive tokens of good stuff.  We receive Christ in the supper.  He Himself is the Bread of life who nourishes, not remembrances of grace. 

Second, in personal chats let's talk about Jesus.  Not just our spirits, not just our blessings or struggles but Jesus.  How it fortifies the heart to hear His name on another's lips!  He is received by us again and again as we hold out His word to one another.

Third, in preaching, we can be bold to offer a free salvation to sinners because we're not offering a blank cheque but marriage to a Bridegroom. This will help us with the issue we thought about in my last post - I reckon we ought to hold out salvation to people who are hardened sinners, people who still love darkness and who don't actually have a resolve to 'Go God's way'.  Because, of course, without Christ how could they??  But then people object and say, 'This will promote licence.  You can't offer forgiveness to people who don't show signs of repentance.'  Here's the thing though - we're not holding out a 'Get out of Jail Free' card.  We're holding out Christ Himself to sinners.  If we simply preached an abstract 'forgiveness' then licence is a distinct possibility.  If we preach Christ it's out of the question. 




0 thoughts on “Not receiving it – receiving Him

  1. Rich Owen

    If you truly understand that you are in Christ, you must also believe you are at the right hand of the Father and that the Spirit calls from within you "Abba". Jesus says here is my brother and the Father, with open arms recieves his child.

    When temptation comes, we go back to Christ. Understanding that when I sin I grieve the Spirit in me I reject Christ who fills me and my sins are done whist sitting on my Father's lap - that is what prevents me from sinning.

  2. Jason

    Hi Glen,
    I'm not new to your blog...i've been a lurker for some time.

    I'd like to briefly come out of the cyber-shadows to thank you for this post.

    I must admit, sometimes I wonder whether I've believed in Jesus, or the idea of Jesus. I think there's a world of difference, as this post reminds me.

    Maybe this is one of the reasons why I haven't incarnated the love of Christ. How can I incarnate a man if i only believe in the idea of a man?

    Anyhow, thanks again.

  3. Glen

    Hi Jason - welcome to comments!

    It's so important isn't it to consciously be aware as I open the bible - 'The *Person* of Jesus is encountering me', when I hear preaching - 'The *Person* of Jesus is addressing me'; when I take communion - 'The *Person* of Jesus is offered to me.' Or when I'm just thinking about stuff to think it before *Jesus* saying 'Lord, search me' or when I'm blogging to blog in the presence of Jesus.

    I too de-Personalize all the time. Good thing we have the Spirit who is given that *Christ* may dwell in our hearts through faith - Eph 3:16-17.


  4. Mum

    Hi Glen
    I like John Stott's succinct description of grace which aligns with your concerns about people describing grace in terms of the 'what' when it should be the 'who' - ie Christ. He says ... Grace is love that cares, and stoops and rescues.

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